Reported speech: reporting verbs

Reported speech: reporting verbs

Do you know how to tell someone what another person said using reporting verbs? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how reporting verbs are used.

direct speech: 'You should come, it's going to be a lot of fun,' she said.
indirect speech: She persuaded me to come.

direct speech: 'Wait here,' he said.
indirect speech: He told us to wait there.

direct speech: 'It wasn't me who finished the coffee,' he said.
indirect speech: He denied finishing the coffee.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Reported speech 3 – reporting verbs: 1

Grammar explanation

When we tell someone what another person said, we often use the verbs say, tell or ask. These are called 'reporting verbs'. However, we can also use other reporting verbs. Many reporting verbs can be followed by another verb in either an infinitive or an -ing form. 

Reporting verb + infinitive

Verbs like advise, agree, challenge, claim, decide, demand, encourage, invite, offer, persuade, promise, refuse and remind can follow an infinitive pattern.

'Let's see. I'll have the risotto, please.'
  • He decided to have the risotto.
'I'll do the report by Friday, for sure.'
  • She promised to do the report by Friday.
'It's not a good idea to write your passwords down.'
  • They advised us not to write our passwords down.

We can also use an infinitive to report imperatives, with a reporting verb like tell, order, instruct, direct or warn.

'Please wait for me in reception.'
  • The guide told us to wait for her in reception.
'Don't go in there!'
  • The police officer warned us not to go in there.

Reporting verb + -ing form

Verbs like admit, apologise for, complain about, deny, insist on, mention and suggest can follow an -ing form pattern.

'I broke the window.'
  • She admitted breaking the window.
'I'm really sorry I didn't get back to you sooner.'
  • He apologised for not getting back to me sooner.
'Let's take a break.'
  • She suggested taking a break.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Reported speech 3 – reporting verbs: 2

Language level

Average: 4 (35 votes)

Submitted by abhijithhr on Sat, 02/10/2021 - 13:19


In the explanation 2 sets of reporting verbs have been used, 1 w/ infinitive and the other w/ -ing form. I need to understand how to categorize between 2 sets. Appreciate any help.

Hello abhijithhr,

These are verb patterns which really just need to be memorised. There's no rule which allows you to identify on sight which verb is in which category, and there's no rule of meaning to identify them either. These are just categories to memorise.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MPhayTp on Tue, 03/08/2021 - 06:58

"I'll be more careful" said Daniel. 1)Daniel said that he would be more careful. 2)Daniel promised to be more careful. What is the difference between 1 and 2.

Hello DaniWeebKage,

I think promise has a stronger meaning in terms of obligation. You are not just reporting the speech but adding a layer of interpretation. If you use the term promise then there is no question of Daniel speaking ironically or joking, for example; it makes it clear that his words should be taken seriously.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Fri, 28/05/2021 - 08:21

In reply to by Yolanda


Hola Yolanda,

I'm afraid that's not correct. There are lots of good examples of how 'talk' can be used in the Longman Dictionary entry -- just thought I'd mention this in case it's helpful.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Charu on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 08:56

Hi! While changing Direct to Indirect speech, do we also change the infinitive verb in the statement? Example: "Ron wants to visit his grandparents tomorrow." Indirect: Ron wanted to visit his grandparents the following day. In the above sentence, will "to visit" remain as it is, or will it also follow the tense change rule?
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 02:46

In reply to by Charu


Hi Charu,

Good question! The answer is no - the infinitive verb doesn't change. Only verbs that show a tense (e.g. wants/wanted) change.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by emmanuelniyomugabo12 on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 18:10

Thanks for the lesson. And I congratulate for your big help.
Profile picture for user Rafaela1

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 13:06

The suggested that verbs like admit, apologise for, complain about, deny, insist on, mention and suggest could follow an -ing form patter, which was new to me. Thanks for sharing. ;)